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In conversation with our young researchers: Dr Takouhie Mgrditchian

Breast Cancer.

Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths in women worldwide. In most cases, breast cancer patients do not die from the primary tumour itself, but from metastasis to different organs.

Unfortunately, metastatic breast cancer cannot be cured but can only be treated to extend patient’s life. Therefore, a better understanding of metastatic process is an urgent need to improve patients’ treatments and to pave the way for a cure.

Dr Takouhie Mgrditchian is a postdoctoral fellow at the Cytoskeleton and Cancer Progression unit at the Luxembourg Institute of Health. Her research work focuses on Breast Cancer invasion and metastasis.

Understanding the metastatic process to improve patients’ treatment

Breast cancer develops when abnormal cells in the breast begin to divide uncontrollably. Metastatic breast cancer is the most advanced stage of breast cancer.

When breast cancer is diagnosed, the aim of the current treatments is usually to remove the entire tumour. But this is no longer possible if it has spread to other parts of the body, i.e. metastatic breast cancer. The aim of the therapy is to keep the patient’s general health and quality of life as good as possible for as long as possible.

Metastasis refers to cancer cells that have spread to a new area of the body. Breast cancer that spreads to other parts of the body is still considered breast cancer.

In her research work, Dr Takouhie Mgrditchian is striving to get a better understanding of metastatic process to pave the way for new therapies able to prevent or reduce cancer cell dissemination.

Research to help others and patients

Dr Takouhie Mgrditchian’s research journey started in the ” Viral Infections and Comparative Pathologies ” Lab in Lyon, France. As part of her master’s thesis, she used Drosophila Melanogaster as a research model to study the passage of retroviruses from somatic cells to germ cells, i.e. how an exogenous virus becomes endogenous and is transmitted from generation to generation.

Drosophila Melanogaster, a.k.a. the fruit fly, is used as a model organism to study disciplines ranging from fundamental genetics to the development of tissues and organs. According to various studies, the Drosophila genome has many similarities to that of humans.


The Franco-Syrian biologist joined Research Luxembourg as a PhD student, focusing on the role of targeting autophagy in enhancing the anti-tumour immune response.


Upon completion of her PhD, she joined the “Acute and Chronic Cardiovascular Insufficiency” INSERM lab in Nancy, France as a postdoctoral researcher, where she worked on vascular ageing. Now, she is part of the Cytoskeleton and Cancer Progression team at the Luxembourg Institute of Health headed by Dr Clément Thomas and focuses on Breast Cancer invasion and metastasis.

“Contributing to improve the quality of life of people, especially patients, is a driving force. This vocation gives meaning to my life. Moreover, doing research satisfies my curiosity and gives me the opportunity to learn continuously”

Dr Takouhie Mgrditchian

Why Luxembourg as a research destination?

For Dr Takouhie Mgrditchian, Luxembourg has excellent research infrastructure and state-of-the-art research facilities.

While her postdoctoral position is currently supported by télévie, she has always accessed funding to support her research. As a matter of fact, her PhD programme was funded by the Luxembourg National Research Fund.

“I have seen since joining Luxembourg how the country supports research and how it is continuously developing in this field, while maintaining its excellent research quality.”

Dr Takouhie Mgrditchian

She was also successful in being selected for the Caloust Gulbenkian Foundation’s Global Excellence Scholarship, which supported her training and participation in various conferences throughout her PhD.

Stronger together: Collaborations make research more powerful

In Luxembourg, researchers are highly encouraged to collaborate. Since she has been at the Luxembourg Institute of Health, Dr Takouhie Mgrditchian has had the opportunity to collaborate with researchers from other Luxembourg research institutions such as the University of Luxembourg and the Luxembourg National Health Laboratory.

“I work not only with biologists but also with researchers from different fields such as statisticians and bioinformaticians.”

Dr Takouhie Mgrditchian

More about the Cytoskeleton and Cancer Progression group in Luxembourg Institute of Health.

Meet our young researchers

In conversation with our young researchers: Dr Matthew Flood

How can technological solutions provide clinicians and patients with effective treatment outcomes for orthopaedic injuries and diseases? What role can motion capture technology play in delivering quantitative clinical diagnoses […]

In conversation with our young researchers: Dr Huizhu Sun

How can research help Luxembourg to maintain its international competitive position as a financial marketplace? Huizhu Sun is a Junior Research & Associate in the Luxembourg Institute of Science […]

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Latest news Personalised Healthcare

Research Luxembourg and French Biotech company partner to help drive innovation in cancer immunotherapy   

Cancer immunotherapy.

Cancer immunotherapy based on immune checkpoint blockade has provided significant clinical benefits in many cancers. Despite the encouraging and promising clinical responses observed in a few patients, the majority have only a short-term survival benefit, if any, and severe side effects.

There is a clinical urge to design combinatorial strategies to extend the benefits of immunotherapy to a large number of cancer patients.

The Luxembourg Institute of Health partnered with French Biotech company Advanced BioDesign to develop novel approaches that effectively extend the benefit of cancer immunotherapy. This collaboration aims to potentiate the effectiveness of immunotherapy and provide a revolutionary approach to treating cancers.

Combing innovative and highly selective molecules inhibiting resistance mechanisms in multiple cancers

This collaboration is bringing about ” TRICK-ALDH “. In this project, scientists will evaluate the benefits of immunotherapy combined with premium oncology drugs to effectively suppress carcinogenesis and prevent resistance to cancer therapies.

The overall objective of the TRICK-ALDH project is to provide a new, rational combination of targeted therapy and immunotherapy to achieve long-term survival benefit for solid tumours, with a particular focus on melanoma and lung cancer.

As a result of this collaboration between Research Luxembourg’s scientists and Advanced BioDesign, the teams hope to develop innovative immunotherapeutic combination approaches that could generate considerable momentum in the field of cancer care.

Making the most of the scientific and business expertise

Building bridges between science and the industry is a priority for Luxembourg. The TRICK-ALDH project is a prime example of this commitment to stimulate partnerships between public research institutes and companies as it received financial support from the Luxembourg National Research Fund under the BRIDGES scheme. This programme aims to provide financial support for industry partnerships between public research institutions in Luxembourg and national or international companies.

“We believe that true translational oncology and translational research in general can only effectively be achieved by leveraging the scientific and business expertise of internationally renowned industrial partners. We are confident that our close collaboration with Advanced BioDesign will catalyse the development of the next-generation of combinatorial treatments for a variety of cancers, with concrete and tangible benefits in the clinical practice.”

Dr Bassam Janji, Head of Tumor Immunotherapy and Microenvironment group, Luxembourg Institute of Health

More about this partnership.

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Luxembourg allocates largest R&D budget per person in the EU

How much does Luxembourg government allocate for R&D? How does it compare with other EU countries? According to Eurostat, Luxembourg devoted the highest allocations in the EU with €648 per person in 2020. In comparison, government budget allocations for R&D at an EU level stood at €225 per person. Research & Development a priority for Luxembourg…

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Luxembourg a leader in the EU for internet quality

What’s the digital quality of life like in Luxembourg? Where does the country stand in Europe and globally? The 2021 Digital Quality Life index assesses 110 countries on the quality of a digital well-being. The global research, which covers 90% of the global population, is calculated by looking at the impact of five core pillars:…

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The University of Luxembourg reached its highest ever score in research

The University of Luxembourg achieved its highest ever score in the categories of research and industrial income. In terms of international outlook, it scored an astounding 99.5. A research-oriented university With a score of 39.2 in the research category, The University of Luxembourg achieved its best performance ever. In comparison, it is on a par…

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Latest news

EU missions – a new way to work together within Horizon Europe

EU missions.

EU Missions are a new way to bring concrete solutions to some of our greatest challenges.

The European Commission introduced five new EU missions as a new and innovative way of working together and improving the lives of people in Europe and beyond. The EU missions aim to address major challenges in health, climate and the environment

The missions are embedded in Horizon Europe, the EU’s key funding programme for research and innovation with a budget of €95.5 billion for the period from 2021-2027.

EU missions to deliver impact by putting research and innovation into a new role

EU missions are a new collaborative approach designed to address some of the major challenges of our time. Drawing on the experience of working together and mobilising resources on a large scale to tackle the COVID-19 epidemic, they provide a framwork for achieving specific targets within a set timeframe and rely on research and innovation to make an impact. They will also help to mobilise citizens, especially young people.

The five missions aim to deliver solutions to key global challenges by 2030:

  1. Adaptating to Climate Change by supporting at least 150 European regions and communities to become climate resilient.
  2. Fighting Cancer by improving the lives of more than 3 million people through prevention, cure and solutions to live longer and better.
  3. Restoring Ocean and Waters by protecting 30% of the EUs sea area as well as restoring marine eco-systems, preventing/eliminating pollution and making the blue economy climate-neutral.
  4. Supporting 100 climate-neutral and smart cities by helping 100 European cities or more in their transformation towards climate neutrality by 2030 and turning these cities into innovation hubs,
  5. Establishing a “soil deal” for Europe by setting up 100 living labs and lighthouses to lead the transition towards healthy soils.
Horizon Europe Missions

EU Missions – a novelty of Horizon Europe

The missions are fully embedded in Horizon Europe. The first Horizon Europe Work Programme for 2021-2022, published in June 2021, includes a series of actions that pave the way for delivering the missions. It is due to be updated with a full research and innovation agenda by the end of the year.

The first calls for proposals on specific mission-related topics will be published by the end of 2021.

Luxinnovation, the national innovation agency, is the Luxembourg contact point for Horizon Europe.

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University of Luxembourg: 20th top young university

Top three in international outlook category The University of Luxembourg performed particularly high in the international outlook category, coming in third position. Its overall score was 59.84 across the categories teaching, research, citations, industry income and international outlook. The Young University Rankings considers universities aged 50 or younger. The top spot was occupied by Nanyang…

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Luxembourg – a strong innovator

On the 2021 European Innovation Scoreboard, which assesses the performance of countries in the field of innovation, Luxembourg is a strong innovator and stands out in attractive research system, human resources, intellectual assets indicators. Second most attractive research system Luxembourg ranks second most attractive research system, after Switzerland. Luxembourg scores particularly high on Foreign doctorate students,…

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Towards 2030: How Luxembourg is transforming?

Second largest patenting country per 100,000 inhabitants According to IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2021 and the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce, R&D personnel rose from 9.34 per 1,000 inhabitants to 9.60 between 2020 and 2021. As such, Luxembourg ranks 5th in this respect. In the same vein, the number of scientific articles published in Luxembourg increased…

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Latest news Sustainable & Responsible Development

Researching housing in Europe amid rising unaffordability and widening inequalities

Housing crisis in Europe.

Across the continent, housing represents an increasingly important driver of social inequalities. Housing is perceived as a safe and reliable asset class in a low interest rate era, generating a significant interest from property investors. This situation favors those who already have a foot on the housing ladder, and those involved in the production of housing.

Europe is experiencing a housing crisis. Why has housing become unaffordable? What are the mechanisms behind this crisis? What are the policies that contribute to the deepening of social inequalities?

Luxembourg researcher, Antoine Paccoud, a social geographer from the Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research (LISER) is studying the issue in Luxembourg. In particular, he is focused on the analysis of housing data and policies.  

“Housing inequalities are currently widening amid rapidly rising property prices and deteriorating housing affordability. It is crucial in this context to identify the mechanisms generating these inequalities and the policies that may be contributing to their deepening. In so doing, it is important to have a sense of the historical development of the housing crisis, and its relation to the long-run structure of land and housing ownership.”

Antoine Paccoud, Research Scientist,
Urban Development & Mobility, LISER

Private land ownership plays major role in housing crisis

The affordable housing crisis has become an emergency in Europe. In this context, Luxembourg is a market to observe. Case in point: housing prices have doubled since 2010. Recent research has identified the important role of the country’s land market in this development, two aspects of which are of particular relevance: land is overwhelmingly in private hands and land ownership concentration is very high. The continued dominance of private land ownership is facilitated by the country’s very low property tax and the exemption of inheritance tax on transfers in direct line.

With sustained economic and population growth, this framework turns land and residential land especially into a coveted asset. While the country’s territory is undoubtedly limited, there is a significant reserve of land zoned for residential purposes. The thing is that little of the available residential land is actually used to build housing, with those in control of the land supply able to influence the type and price of housing that is built.

“Residential land is squarely in private hands and is subject to two interlocking, and multiplicative, processes of ownership concentration. Private individuals own the bulk of residential land and release it for housing production in a strategic way. A small set of land-rich property developers capture the majority of the residential land that these private individuals decide to sell. As public actors are marginal to the house building process, this small set of developers faces very limited competition in the housing market. This housing production system contributes to spiralling property prices.”

Antoine Paccoud, Research Scientist,
Urban Development & Mobility, LISER

6 in 10 Luxembourg households are repaying a mortgage or paying rent

In October 2021, the Housing Observatory, a collaboration between LISER and the Luxembourg Housing Ministry, released a new report looking at the evolution of the affordability ratio. Main findings include:

01

Two categories of households are subject to higher housing costs

In Luxembourg, 6 in 10 households are repaying a mortgage or paying rent (59%). These two categories of households are subject to higher housing costs than other household categories, and these costs are at risk of taking up an increasingly large proportion of their budget over time.

02

A more marked increase in the affordability ratio for tenants

The analysis of the affordability ratio by household tenure status shows an overall increase for all households, albeit one that is more marked for tenants renting at market prices. Although the affordability ratios for owners with a mortgaged and tenants were almost identical in 2016 (around 30%), this ratio has remained stable for owners with a mortgage but rose to 37.3% for tenants in 2019. In addition, the proportion of tenant households whose affordability ratio exceeded 40% also increased more quickly than for owners with a mortgage.

More about the Housing Observatory report (note 27) [in French]

Read all the Socio-Economic Indicators by LISER on housing here.

More about Antoine Paccoud

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In conversation with our young researchers: Dr. Camille Perchoux

How much do urban environments have an impact on our active and healthy behaviours, chronic diseases and healthy ageing? Dr. Camille Perchoux is a young research associate in the Luxembourg Institute of Socio Economic Research (LISER). She focuses on urban health. A health geographer Camille Perchoux describes herself as a health geographer. Indeed, her research…

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When housing becomes unaffordable

What if the concentrated ownership of residential land affects housing production in Luxembourg through the interplay of landowner and developer wealth accumulation strategies? Drawing on expert interviews, researchers from the Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research (LISER) and the University of Luxembourg are investigating land and housing in Luxembourg, analysing the development of 71 large-scale residential…

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Inside Research Luxembourg Latest news Personalised Healthcare

In conversation with our young researchers: Dr Matthew Flood

Biomedical engineering.

Walking, running and general mobility are key components of everyday life that are often underappreciated. The ability to move is critical for personal independence and sustaining a high quality of life, and when our natural capacity to move is impaired, our overall health, both physical and mental, is heavily impacted.

How can technological solutions provide clinicians and patients with effective treatment outcomes for orthopaedic injuries and diseases? What role can motion capture technology play in delivering quantitative clinical diagnoses of sport-related injuries? How can researchers harness the data from wearable sensors and digital devices to understand the impact of impaired mobility during activities of daily life?

Dr Matthew Flood is a postdoctoral fellow at the Human Motion, Orthopaedics, Sports Medicine and Digital Medicine unit at the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH). As a biomedical engineer, his day-to-day research involves clinical biomechanical assessments of individuals with orthopaedic and sports-related injuries.

Technological solutions to contribute to more efficient delivery of healthcare

To Dr Matthew Flood, effective prediction, diagnosis and treatment is vital to minimise the impact of orthopaedic or neuromuscular disorders in the short term and to prevent secondary health conditions in the long term. His research aims to develop technological solutions for clinicians and patients that provide effective treatment outcomes and ultimately contribute to more efficient delivery of healthcare.

Pursuing this objective, he applies nonlinear signal processing and advanced data analysis methods to biomechanical and neurophysiological data in order to understand the mechanisms underpinning orthopaedic conditions and other movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease.

More recently, his research has been focused on gait analysis, i.e. walking patterns, in the clinic using motion capture systems, and in the real world assessing movement in everyday life using wearable sensors, called inertial measurement units.

Through wearable sensors, motion capture systems, and AI-driven smartphone applications, Dr Matthew Flood’s research looks for ways in which we can harness the latest advances in technology to provide more accurate and effective personalised healthcare.

Overall, Dr Matthew Flood has been collaborating with orthopaedic surgeons and physiotherapists at Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg and LIROMS to clinically assess patient recovery from sport-related injury using motion capture technology.

“As a member of a translational and transversal research group, I work closely with surgeons from the Dept. of Orthopaedics at Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg to develop collaborative research studies that utilise our technical and clinical expertise to bring about new and innovative treatment solutions.”

Dr Matthew Flood

Research to gain autonomy, expertise and purpose

Dr Matthew Flood’s interest in research was piqued when he started working with brain computer interfaces during his master’s project in biomedical engineering, completed in University College Dublin (UCD).

From that point on, the Irish researcher decided to continue in research, pursuing a PhD in electrical engineering. During his PhD he was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to the motion analysis lab of the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital at the Harvard Medical School. This experience provided him with opportunities to design novel medical devices like exoskeletons and explore their implementation with rehabilitation specialists in a clinical environment.

Since completing his PhD, he has worked on several postdoctoral projects on stroke rehabilitation at university hospitals in Dublin and Germany before joining Research Luxembourg in 2021.

“In my opinion, a career in research, and particularly biomedical research, is so rewarding because it offers autonomy, expertise and purpose.”

Dr Matthew Flood

The working environment in Luxembourg has also allowed him to pursue personal research endeavours, such as the development of a software toolkit for entropy analysis, a helpful tool for capturing complex patterns in biosignals such as electrocardiograms.

Why Luxembourg as a research destination?

Luxembourg’s geography and economy create a combination that fosters close interdisciplinary research. With a large number of research centres of excellence comprising internationally renowned scientists and state-of-the-art facilities, Luxembourg is an ideal destination for researchers from around the world. To the biomedical engineer, “it is impressive to see how well science is funded and the importance placed on it by the state. With so many great research organisations in close proximity to one another, it is easier to have face-to-face interactions with colleagues from different research fields, and the more opportunities people have to meet up and discuss their work, the greater the chances of producing innovative ideas.”

Indeed, Matthew Flood points out that working in a triumvirate of researchers, surgeons and physiotherapists, located in close proximity to each other, allows them to interact and discuss their work face to face, an advantage rarely possible in research.

“By coming to Luxembourg, I wanted to pursue new and alternative areas of research while simultaneously discovering new cultures. In this sense, the opportunity to join Research Luxembourg seemed ideal as it is a multinational hub at the heart of Europe.

The transversal and translational nature of the Luxembourg Institute of Health was also a big factor as one can work to bring clinical research directly into medical practice.”

Dr Matthew Flood

About living in Luxembourg

Matthew Flood recently moved to Luxembourg and is a big advocate of the free public transport. “In every place where I’ve lived for the last 12 years, I have relied on public transport to get around, factoring in fares and times of specific routes when trying to get from A to B. But not anymore. With free transport, I don’t have to think twice about stepping on a bus, train or tram, which makes it much quicker to get around.”

“Being so international means that you come across people from all walks of life, especially in research. [As for the size of Luxembourg, it] is ideal for getting around to all the great attractions it has on show.”

Dr Matthew Flood

More about Human Motion, Orthopaedics, Sports Medicine and Digital Methods in Luxembourg Institute of Health.

Meet our young researchers

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21st Century Education Latest news

Research Luxembourg startup Magrid is rising further

Magrid, a game-changing maths training solution.

Magrid strips away the linguistic part of learning mathematics using language-free visual tasks through a workbook and an app.

The startup is the result of more than five years of research and development at the University of Luxembourg.

Magrid recently won a social innovation competition organised by the European Investment Bank (EIB) Institute.

Designed by former PhD student Tahereh Pazouki as part of her doctoral research project, Magrid was developed at the University of Luxembourg Incubator.

Turning research into business

Magrid is a language-neutral early math solution that aims to make mathematics education accessible to all children, regardless of their language background. By presenting tasks and training concepts in a visual way, students explore an interactive environment to find a solution to a specific assignment. 

Developed by former University of Luxembourg PhD student Tahereh Pazouki and hosted by its incubator, Magrid was first made available to Luxembourg primary schools and specialised learning centres before being officially launched.

Magrid is one of the prime examples of Luxembourg’s commitment to building bridges between research and business. Indeed, the project received support from the Luxembourg National Research Fund’s competitive funding programme. The JUMP scheme, as it is called, is designed to bridge the technical and financial gap between research discoveries and their commercialisation/utilisation.

Demystifying research, facilitating partnerships and supporting open innovation, Research Luxembourg contributes to fostering the relationship between research and business, in particular through public funding programmes.

Magrid, an award-winning startup

Magrid has already made a name for itself being one of the 40 startups to win a World Summit Award, handed out to businesses that contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

More recently, the company won first prize in the General Category of the 10th edition of the Social Innovation Tournament, held in Lisbon and online on 7 October 2021. This initiative of the European Investment Bank’s Institute aims to recognise and support the best European social entrepreneurs.

More about Magrid

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First Luxembourgish start-up winner of the World Summit Awards

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Luxembourg to open healthtech incubator

Luxembourg’s new business health technologies incubator will open in spring 2021. Hosted at the House of Biohealth in Esch-Belval, it will offer 350 m2 of laboratory space to start-ups and spin-offs during their first 2-3 years of operation. The opening of the new healthtech incubator was announced by Minister of the Economy Franz Fayot on…

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About Luxembourg Industrial & Service Transformation Latest news

Research Luxembourg takes part in Beyond UNIVERSEH

gray and black galaxy wallpaper

Beyond UNIVERSEH.

UNIVERSEH is an alliance of five higher education institutions aiming to develop new ways of collaboration in the field of space, within the “European Universities” initiative by the European Commission. The consortium recently launched Beyond UNIVERSEH, its Research pillar.

UNIVERSEH focuses on the development of educational activities and innovative collaborations in the European space sector.

The University of Luxembourg is a member of the UNIVERSEH consortium, which also includes Université Fédérale Toulouse Midi Pyrénées (France), Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf (Germany), Luleå tekniska universitet (Sweden) and AGH University of Science and Technology (Poland)

Strengthening Europe’s position in Space and new Space

Created in 2020 as part of the Erasmus+ “European Universities” initiative of the European Commission, UNIVERSEH has the potential to reach more than 140,000 students, researchers and staff.

Reflecting European values, it aims to facilitate mobility and multilingualism, promote student inclusion and diversity, support interdisciplinary programmes, and strengthen pedagogical innovation and entrepreneurship in Europe.

UNIVERSEH is developing an ambitious European programme to support the thriving ecosystem of space activities with the dynamic support of governmental and public bodies as well as of commercial players.

Beyond UNIVERSEH to develop a research policy roadmap for 2035 within the space sector

The main ambition of Beyond UNIVERSEH is to develop a research policy roadmap for 2035 and a vision for 2050 in the space sector. Such a roadmap will build a sustainable and integrated research and innovation network within the alliance and beyond.

The consortium will also create a unique shared and collaborative virtual lab and research community. As such, it has the potential to spearhead new collaborative and interdisciplinary methodologies to improve the outcomes of space research and innovation.

It will connect researchers and stakeholders from multiple backgrounds, promoting a highly multidisciplinary and cross-sector network to address the societal challenges of space and new space.

More about Beyond UNIVERSEH

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Inside Research Luxembourg Latest news Personalised Healthcare

In conversation with our young researchers: Pilar Maria Moreno Sanchez

Tumor immunology.

Most preclinical models lack effective immune system components. There is an urgent need to test new immunomodulatory agents for brain cancer patients.

How studying the interactions of tumor cells with tumor microenvironment can help immunotherapy in glioblastoma patients?

Pilar Maria Moreno Sanchez is a PhD candidate at the NORLUX Neuro-Oncology laboratory in the Department of Oncology of the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH). Her research mainly focuses on tumor immunology for glioblastoma, the most aggressive type of brain cancer.

Contributing to new cancer treatment possibilities

Pilar Maria Moreno Sanchez is developing effective preclinical immunocompetent models for glioblastoma, that can reliably predict tumour-induced immune responses.

Her PhD project is driven by the current need to develop novel immunomodulatory therapies that can overcome the lack of response to immunotherapy in patients with glioblastoma.

Immunomodulatory therapies

An immunomodulatory therapy treats diseases through the regulation of the patient’s immune system. In other terms, such a therapy boosts the immune system so it can find tumor cells in the body and kill them to effectively tackle the disease. 

Indeed, her project addresses the reduction and/or absence of immune system components in most preclinical models. This situation limits the possibility of testing new immunomodulating agents.

As such, the aim is to study the immune component of patient-derived 3D glioma organoids and xenografts and to investigate the interactions of tumour cells with the tumour microenvironment.

Patient-Derived Xenografts

In oncology research, xenografts are used as patient avatars to develop a personalised treatment. To do so, a small fragment of the patient’s tumor may be excised and subsequently grafted into an immunodeficient or humanised mouse.

The patient avatars are then being used to assess therapeutic options focused on the glioma microenvironment, thus providing reliable results that could be applied in the clinic.

“With our findings, we hope to provide the scientific community with robust models that will be relevant for future immunotherapeutics development and therefore could directly contribute to new glioma patient’s treatment possibilities.”

Pilar Maria Moreno Sanchez

Research to fight cancer

The Spanish researcher developed an interest in oncology early. After graduating in Biochemistry at the University of Murcia, Spain, she then earned a master’s degree in Molecular Biomedicine with a focus on Oncology at the Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain.

Before starting her PhD, Pilar Maria Moreno Sanchez worked as a research assistant in a project focused on humanised preclinical models for renal carcinoma, i.e. the most common type of cancer.

She also obtained an accreditation to work with laboratory animals, and the Good Clinical Practice certificate to perform clinical research.

“Cancer hit a deeply loved member of my family nine years ago, my grandfather […] it was the key point that made me want to change the situation, I felt it as a responsibility to show my family there were people who cared and were willing to fight against cancer. This is the whole reason why I got into science and Biochemistry, because we need to make people believe in science and have hope again and I am happy to contribute with my tiny bit in that.”

Pilar Maria Moreno Sanchez

A member of the i2TRON project

Pilar Maria Moreno Sanchez joined Research Luxembourg via the i2TRON fellowship. This doctoral training unit is on “integrating immune strategies for Translational Research in Oncology and Neurology”.

The aim of i2TRON is to train next generation translational scientists to advance research innovations focusing on immunological components across model diseases, and to turn new mechanistic insight into diagnostic and therapeutic strategies to improve patient care. 

Overall, 20 experienced supervisors, including  four  physician scientists representing the focus areas,  join forces across the Luxembourg the Institute of Health (LIH), the University of Luxembourg, the Laboratoire National de Santé (LNS) and the Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg (CHL) to bridge and translate fundamental and clinical research into novel strategies for clinical practice. Each partner institution offers specialised research expertise as well as access to cutting-edge IT-, laboratory- and clinical infrastructures and combining their domain expertise in a collaborative scheme to push the frontier of knowledge.

i2TRON is funded over a period of 6.5 years by the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) through the competitive PRIDE programe.

Luxembourg fosters research collaboration

Since her arrival in her lab group, Pilar has realised that collaboration is the key to success.

“My lab is a very multidisciplinary and international research group, comprising experienced researchers and technicians with various expertise. The environment of Department of Oncology is also very collaborative. Our laboratory actively collaborates with numerous researchers in Luxembourg and abroad.”

Pilar Maria Moreno Sanchez

Pilar Maria Moreno Sanchez praises Luxembourg for its healthy research atmosphere and international environment.

To her, Luxembourg managed to create effective connections between research institutes. It also gives the chance to work at different places according to the resources one need. “In my opinion it is very well equipped and a country that cares and invests in research, even more than other bigger countries in Europe.”

About living in Luxembourg

According to Pilar Maria Moreno Sanchez, Luxembourg is a nice country to live in. In particular, she highlights that public transport is free.

“I really love the good organisation and coherence of Luxembourg in general. Everything seems to be put in place so the citizens’ life can be easier. The many different nationalities make Luxembourg a very attractive country with the possibility to learn from many different cultures.”

Pilar Maria Moreno Sanchez

Meet our young researchers

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About Luxembourg Latest news

Luxembourg allocates largest R&D budget per person in the EU

Government budget allocation for R&D.

The highest Research & Development allocations were recorded in Luxembourg.

How much does Luxembourg government allocate for R&D? How does it compare with other EU countries?

According to Eurostat, Luxembourg devoted the highest allocations in the EU with €648 per person in 2020. In comparison, government budget allocations for R&D at an EU level stood at €225 per person.

Research & Development a priority for Luxembourg

Luxembourg’s commitment to investing in R&D is partly motivated by the fact that the research ecosystem is the main catalyst for the country to seize new opportunities for sustainable and responsible development. Research Luxembourg generates the innovations that can improve the quality of life of tomorrow.

What our researchers say

The Luxembourg government has made research, development and higher education one of the cornerstones of the nation’s vision for the future.

Here are what our young researchers have to say about the commitment of the country in investing in research

Dr Chiara Amorino

“I strongly recommend Luxembourg as a research destination. Research infrastructures are very good, they show the strong commitment of the country in investing in research.”

Dr Sunday Ojochegbe Okutachi

“The country invests heavily in obtaining state-of-the-art equipment in biomedical research. Consequently, researchers are able to carry out their work with minimal hassle. Indeed, the commitment of the relevant authorities to make the country a leading scientific hub is highly commendable.”

Daniele Proverbio

“Researchers can benefit from competitive funding, state-of-the-art facilities and assistance for outreach and networking.

Dr Susheel Bhanu Busi

“The resources made available to researchers via the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) […] would be ideal for researchers at all career levels.”

Explore more about our young researchers.

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About Luxembourg Covid-19 taskforce Latest news

Research Luxembourg and government together during the pandemic

Navigating the COVID-19 crisis through science and policy collaboration.

The COVID-19 pandemic sparked an unprecedented mobilisation and collaboration of Research Luxembourg and the government of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. In record time, public research institutes and the government launched a series of newly funded research initiatives to respond to the Covid crisis.

On 5 October 2021, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg Xavier Bettel and Research Luxembourg COVID-19 Taskforce met to discuss the milestones of their collaboration while looking at the actions carried out and to come.

Mobilising research towards the same objective

Between March and May 2020, Research Luxembourg managed to bring together the best of research in order to come up with a plan and a strategy that allowed to test up to 10% of the population every week. This was a critical measure to keep the pandemic under control.

Among the actions taken, large-scale testing yielded effective outcomes.

“Now we know that it was the only way to deal with the pandemic. Non-symptomatic people were infectious and we had to test everybody to have a complete overview. In phase 1, large-scale testing halved the number of severe cases. We actually reduced 43% of the overall number of cases.”

Prof Ulf Nehrbass, Chief Executive Officer of Luxembourg Institute of Health.

Picture copyrights: @ME

One team to find answers and formulate answers

The pandemic has shown that Research Luxembourg has the capacity to mobilise, structure and respond at any time. This attitude is the result of a team spirit developed in a small country with excellent researchers and infrastructures.

“We went from numerous questions to providing data as well as empirical evidence to come up with answers that formulated solutions. This was all achieved in record time.”

Prof. Dr. Paul Wilmes

Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Prof Dr Paul Wilmes in Biotech lab

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Scientists and policy makers working together

Research Luxembourg has endeavoured to gather and disseminate as much information as possible relevant to COVID in the policy-making process.

Luxembourg is one of the countries where the relationship between the scientific community and policy makers during the pandemic has been effective.

Indeed, the government called on and took into account the advice of scientists in many disciplines.

“Mutual respect and listening was the best way to approach this crisis, as both the government and Research Luxembourg were engaged in the same mission.”

Xavier Bettel, Prime Minister of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg

Picture copyrights: @ME

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